Cases & Deals

Indian tribes win interlocutory appeal before Alaska Supreme Court in case involving adoption violations

Client(s) Native Village of Curyung

Jones Day lawyers won an interlocutory appeal before the Alaska Supreme Court. Jones Day is co-counsel with Alaska Legal Services Corporation. The suit is brought on behalf of four Alaskan Indian tribes to remedy alleged systematic violations by the State of Alaska in its treatment of native children in state custody. The Tribes allege that when tribal children are placed in State custody, it is very common for the State to send the children far from home and from relatives, to place them in emergency shelters rather than home-like settings, and to repeatedly move them from placement to placement. The State's alleged conduct is tremendously harmful to the children and their communities, and violates rights granted by a number of statutes, including the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act. After the defendants moved to dismiss on numerous grounds, Jones Day led the effort to oppose the motions. Ted Bilich of Jones Day's Washington Office argued the motions, both before the trial court and the Alaska Supreme Court. Assisting him on briefing were Peter Wang of the Shanghai Office, and Jonathan Berman and Chris Farrell in Washington.

The Defendants' motion raised a series of complex procedural arguments, challenging the plaintiffs' standing to bring suit under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, asserting that certain defendants were shielded by sovereign immunity, and arguing that the substantive laws in question could not be enforced by their intended beneficiaries. The trial court largely denied the motions to dismiss. The Alaska Supreme Court granted an interlocutory review on the State's petition. In a published opinion (No. 6083, December 15, 2006), the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed virtually all of the disputed issues, allowing the case to proceed.

State of Alaska v. Native Village of Curyung, SC No. S-11355 (Supreme Court of Alaska)